Haveron: This Big Two clash is like extra final
Gary Haveron says events like yesterday's Tennent's Irish Cup fifth round draw leave him pinching himself that he's manager of Glentoran Football Club.
The east Belfast side were handed a mammoth derby date with city rivals Linfield and, having started his Oval tenure with a defeat to the Blues in October, Haveron says he's looking forward to measuring exactly how much his men have progressed when they tackle David Healy's charges twice in the coming weeks.
"It's a huge game and probably up there with the Irish Cup final itself in terms of the build-up and the atmosphere," he explains.
"You go into cup draws hoping for a home game against a minnow from lower down the leagues - we certainly got the first part!
"We play Linfield in the league on Boxing Day just before that, so the teams will certainly be familiar with one another and you never really know what can happen on any given day.
"It's not the draw either team would have wanted but, at the same time, it's one to be relished and a game to look forward to. Fifth round day certainly isn't going to be quiet round our neck of the woods because matches don't come much bigger than this."
Having done more than steady the ship since taking charge of the Glens, Haveron's sights are firmly set on booking what had at one stage appeared an unlikely top-six berth and the crack at European football that will come with it - and admits such prospects were the furthest thing from his mind when he stepped down as Carrick Rangers boss in the summer.
"To be honest, I'm still pinching myself that I'm in charge at a club like Glentoran," he says.
"It's a real honour and a privilege. It's a big challenge too and there are pressures that come with it, but you want to be in football for big games and they come thick and fast at Glentoran.
"I suppose the work that was done at Carrick gave me a foot in the door here and at least allowed me to sit down with the board and fight for the right to become Glentoran manager.
"Thankfully they listened and I've been given the opportunity and it's one that I'm enjoying - and I'm looking forward to my first Irish Cup game in charge.
"There'll be a huge crowd at The Oval, a great atmosphere from both sets of fans and I'm sure it'll be a really competitive game but both teams have a few matches to come before that - including the Boxing Day game against each other."
Blues midfielder Jamie Mulgrew firmly subscribes to the old cliché theory about the form book going out the window on Irish Cup day and, with the same adage applied to derbies across the land, he admits progress will come down to whoever seizes their chance when the whistle blows.
"It might be the biggest game in the competition and it's happening right at the earliest point, but that's a story in itself - one of Linfield or Glentoran won't be in the sixth round draw," he says.
"That's a big motivator and a big incentive all round. It's going to be a huge battle in front of a big crowd and it's all about making sure you're prepared to go out, work hard and get the job done.
"Sometimes fifth round day is a bit straightforward because you get one of the so-called lesser teams but there's no margin for error here because these games are as big as they come in the Irish League."
Annagh United v Tobermore United
Ards v Crusaders
Armagh City v Trojans
Ballyclare Comrades v Institute
Ballymena United v Cliftonville
Coleraine v Carrick Rangers
Dungannon Swifts v Dergview
Glenavon v Portstewart
Glentoran v Linfield
H&W Welders v Lurgan Celtic
Knockbreda v Crewe United
Larne v Portadown
Loughgall v Fivemiletown United
PSNI v Lisburn Distillery
Richhill v Dollingstown
Warrenpoint Town v Ballinamallard Utd
Ties scheduled for Saturday, January 7